Appeals court strikes down individual mandate in health care reform

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An appeals court in Atlanta today ruled the “individual mandate” in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, while upholding the rest of the health care reform law passed last year. With today’s decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case next year. Attorneys general from 26 states, along with the National Federation of Independent Business, brought the lawsuit claiming the measure requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine usurped states’ rights, according to a Reuters analysis by Lisa Lambert. States are charged with implementing the federal law by launching insurance exchanges.

In the 2 to 1 ruling, the majority said the “mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority,” according to a Bloomberg report. The law requires “Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them repurchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives,” the majority wrote.

While many small business organizations have supported health care reform, the NFIB has opposed it, contending it will push up insurance rates. “The court reaffirmed what small businesses already knew – there are limits to Congress’ power,” said Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, in a news release. “The individual mandate, which compels every American to buy health insurance or pay a fine, is a bridge too far.” Others, however, suggest health insurance premiums are likely to increase without the individual mandate, which would have provided a large pool of insurance purchasers, driving down costs.

NFIB expects the case to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. “It will be incumbent on the Supreme Court to determine the ultimate future of the health care law,” Harned said. “We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the court.”

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